Touché, Mr. Lessig

Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture
From pages 70 and 71 of Lawrence Lessig’s 2004 book Free Culture

“In 2002, the RIAA reported that CD sales had fallen by 8.9 percent, from 882 million to 803 million units; revenues fell 6.7 percent. The RIAA blames Internet piracy for the trend, but there are many other causes that could account for this drop. SoundScan, for example, reports a more than 20 percent drop in the number of CDs released since 1999…But let’s assume the RIAA is right, and all of the decline in CD sales is due to Internet sharing. Here’s the rub: In the same period that the RIAA estimates that 803 milion CD’s were sold, the RIAA estimates that 2.1 billion CD’s were downloaded for free. Thus, although 2.6 times the total number of CD’s sold were downloaded for free, sales revenue fell by just 6.7 percent.”

He goes on to conclude that stealing a CD and downloading a song are different things. Otherwise the recording industry would be more than broke. This book is a very good introduction to ideas about property and copyright and ownership. Lessig speaks plainly and comprehensively. I’m enjoying this book so far.

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